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Pythons: Pythonidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Constriction (kun-STRIK-shun) is one of this family's best-known behaviors. After grabbing a prey animal in its jaws, the python wraps its body around the animal and constricts or squeezes so hard that the prey cannot breathe. When the animal dies or passes out, the snake uncoils and moves its head around to swallow the meal whole.


In 2000 and 2001, the number of python species grew by seven. The seven new species resulted not when someone found a new snake in the field, but when scientists decided that they had wrongly lumped those seven species in with other python species. Once they were removed and given new species names, the python family grew from twenty-five species to thirty-two. As studies into this family continue, scientists expect that they may find more species hidden inside the thirty-two, and the python family will grow yet again.

When they feel threatened, many will hiss, ooze a bad-smelling material from the vent area at the beginning of the tail, and possibly strike and/or bite. The ball python gets its name because it curls up in a ball when it feels it is in danger.

Pythons are mostly active at night, although they often will sunbathe, or bask, during the daytime in a warm spot. One species, the diamond python of Australia, hibernates, or enters a deep sleep, during the winter to survive the cold months. Scientists know little more about python behavior.

Pythons are an egg laying species. Females of small species, such as the pygmy python, lay up to ten eggs at a time. Larger females, such as the reticulated python, may lay more than one hundred. The eggs usually stick together in a clump. Females coil their bodies around the eggs, which protects them from other animals and keeps them warm. Some mothers can even heat up their bodies during this time by tightening and loosening the muscles. Occasionally, a female may leave the eggs while she goes out to sunbathe and then return to wrap the eggs in her heated body. Once the eggs hatch, the baby snakes usually look much like the adults, although they are sometimes more brightly colored.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesPythons: Pythonidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Black-headed Python (aspidites Melanocephalus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, PYTHONS AND PEOPLE